But It’s So Comfortable!

 

In my opinion, these are the most mis-used words in fashion vocabulary.  How many times do you hear that lament when discussing someone’s sloppy, careless appearance?

Last week’s Wall Street Journal featured a full-page article on “The Comfort Zone”.  Of course, this raised all my hackles.   The article did discuss home furnishings and auto comfort but what really offended my sensibilities was the array of “comfortable” clothing for humans.  I’m sure most people would discount the long skirt for men as ridiculous and would hesitant to take a walk wearing velvet slippers but let’s examine some of the other suggestions.

Piamita (a designer unknown to me, perhaps because I have never focused on designer sleepwear) is suggesting pajamas for daytime.   These are not just any pajama but satin ones with a price tag in the $500 range.  There is no mention of the fact that satin pajamas would wrinkle immediately and need to be dry-cleaned.  Can you imagine walking into a restaurant in this lovely green ensemble and expect to be seated?

Then one can add these track pants by Alexander Wang to their wardrobe for a mere $250.  Why would one pay that kind of money to look like they forgot to get dressed that morning?  One can buy a good pair of jeans for half that price and have something every bit as comfortable that looks good.

The ultimate insult to my sensibilities was the pair of high-topped tennis shoes with a built-in wedge.  What?  Why would anything this bulky and ugly, with a built-in wedge, be considered comfortable”?  They can become a part of your shoe collection for a mere $250.  That, of course, is less than a pair of Louboutins or Jimmy Choos.

Ultimately, I think the “But it’s comfortable” lament is that people don’t know what is going to look good and default to the lowest common denominator.   I just worked with a business-woman who wore gym pants and t-shirts most of the time.  Her work did not require that she dress up so she saved the step of having to change before going to her exercise classes.  She did have some great dresses for going out with friends or to the opera, but for 90% of her life, there was no wardrobe.

I recommended dark-washed jeans and dressier casual slacks.  Adding some blouses and shells, topped with a jacket or sweater and you have a stylish, casual look.  Ralph Lauren’s line has many options that fit this category.  Choose some great boots, pumps or stylish comfortable shoes, add a scaf or jewelry and you’ve got a total polished look.  Does it take a little more effort?  Absolutely!  It might take 5 to 10 minutes more.  Will it be comfortable?  Definitely!   The key is choosing a core wardrobe that will fit your daily needs, be easy and comfortable but will make you look and feel like a million dollars.

Plug Into Neon

When I was working at the Symphony Decorator’s Showhouse last week, I found that I couldn’t help looking at a designer in an adjacent room with her unusual pairing of bright colors.  She had combined a goldenrod pencil skirt with a white, lightweight cotton knit shell bearing tiny black stripes topped by a bright pink cardigan.  Then she added a large, collar-type necklace with turquoise set in silver.   Her black ballerinas completed her look.

Sounds like a designer’s nightmare?  It actually looked fabulous; each element skillfully put together using proportion and varying shades of color to bring harmony.  When I talked with her, she had no idea why it worked, it just felt right.  Her interior design skill had translated into her wardrobe.  In addition to the harmony of shades and proportion, she had strong coloring and great presence.  She was not a lady who would enter a room unnoticed.   All of these factors contributed to making the look work so well for her.

Who could pull off this dramatic combination of colors?  Maybe one in a thousand!

Neon is ubiquitous in the stores this season, the first time since the ‘60’s.  Fashion often follows what’s happening in the country.  Those of you who remember the 60’s, remember how, similar to today, there was political uncertainty, protests and war fatigue.   Neon provides a counterbalance in symbolizing happiness and optimism.

I just read an interview with Tomoko Ogura, fashion director of Women’s Co-Op at Barneys New York.  She suggested pairing the bright neon colors with unexpected, deep shades such as hunter green or burgundy rather than looking like a 1960’s retread with black and neon orange or pink.  For the less adventuresome, choose camel, beige or ivory to balance a neon color.

Neon is not for everyone.  If you have soft coloring, it can overpower your look.  Or, the person with a retiring personality will be exhausted after wearing neon a short time.  There are other options for those who would like just a teaspoon of neon.  Try using a soft shade of neon and use it in a scarf or accent piece.   Shoes or handbags can furnish that punch of color without overpowering the wearer.  And, for the really cautious person, what about carrying a wallet in a bright neon pink, orange or lime?  One only sees it when you are at the cash register.  How fun is that?

If you love neons, make them work for you.  Choose colors that complement your natural coloring in hue and intensity.   Keep it interesting with a 1/3 to 2/3 proportion. And follow the advice of Ms. Ogura, “The beauty of this bright color trend is the color itself – and that can be diminished when there are too many other ideas and colors.”

From Gram to Glam

 

“Are you available September 21?”   I was a bit puzzled by the question but a quick check of my calendar indicated that I was, indeed, available.    When I responded affirmatively, the next question blew me away.  “Would you like to model for a style show at Bloomingdales?”   So this would my Cinderella moment!

After sending off photos, etc. I get a phone call from Robert Ballew who was staging the event.  Emails flew with sizes, measurements, and, as you can well imagine, my suggestions of what I could and could not wear!  There would be three different looks so the appointment was set to come for fittings.  My hair and makeup would be earlier in the day on Friday.

 

Excitement!  Trepidation!  Would they find any shoes that I could keep on my  AAA width foot?  My haircut was scheduled the next week.  Could I trust anyone new in cutting my fine, super-straight hair?  Without a good cut, my hair is a disaster.  Would I break out with the make-up?  (I have reacted from chemicals in expensive lines, requiring a dermatologist.)

Thursday, between appointments, I slip over to Bloomingdales to see what Robert had chosen for me to wear.  Let’s see, a blue jersey day dress with taupe shoes.  Not bad.  The dress fit like a glove and the shoes didn’t fall off.  Next dress:  a black lace over nude.  Cute cocktail or out to dinner look.  The nude softened the black so that it was not too harsh for my coloring.  Robert had paired it with some hot pink suede shoes and later added a bright yellow clutch for the show.  Adorable.  Maybe a little more than I would have done but adorable.  Finally, there was the plum colored evening dress with embellishment and pink gold evening slippers.  (The night of the event, he added a chinchilla stole and evening clutch.)   My trepidation is evaporating.

 

Friday, it’s off to Skanda for hair.  The owner had called and reassured me the girl he assigned had lots of training in cut so I’m going for it.  It was a fun experience and she did a beautiful cut, changing my style slightly.  Now, it’s off to Bloomingdales again, this time for makeup.  Glamour takes a lot of time!

Shahnaz at the YSL counter was doing the makeup.  My husband has always found my makeup too strong when I have had it done, so I was expecting a very dramatic look.  Shahnaz was different.  She placed eyeliner right at the base of my lashes, giving definition but not creating a heavy line.  She chose a plum colored mascara which I had never seen.   It was softer than black and helped bring out my blue eyes.  She added liner to the lower lash but no mascara.  A “highlighter” was gently patted on under the eye instead of concealer as the final touch for the eyes.  This created lightness under the eye and covered any shadow or mascara that might have fallen.  Blush and light lips completed the transformation.  My husband loved it!

All five other models were a delightful.  We had a great time admiring each other’s outfits and showing them off on the runway.   A special bonus:  Our fabulous clothes were all beautiful without damaging one’s credit card beyond redemption.  At the end of the show, I jokingly asked Robert if I could wear the elegant evening dress for the rest of the evening.  He made an exaggerated “O” with his mouth and said “NO”!   My carriage just turned back into a pumpkin.  But we have pictures!

 

Foun.dey.shuhn

 

Foundation:  the basic groundwork of anything

Just as a building needs a solid foundation, or you use “foundation” to prepare your face for the color accents, your body needs the right foundation garments to best project your outer garments.   Whether a $59 dress from H & M or a $1000 dress from Armani, it will look better when you are wearing the proper foundation garments.

I think we often treat our undergarments a bit like toothpaste – a necessary part of life but we buy replacements by rote.   A closet edit is often where clients realize their foundation items are not working for them.  Since good foundational garments are expensive, it is important to have a knowledgeable sales person guiding you.

A good place to start is with the bra.  I have found that my size has changed over the years so a new fitting is important.  Another nasty little habit manufacturers have is discontinuing a favorite style.  I would recommend having a good fitting at least every five years.   Although lace is beautiful and makes you feel elegant, these bras often show the pattern of the lace through soft knits.  The “T” shirt bra has become a staple in my wardrobe.  Another feature to look for when choosing a bra is the option of crossing the straps in back.  As most of you have discovered, many of the newer summer designs have found creative ways to cut deep into the armhole, thus revealing a bra strap.  I notice many women ignoring this fact and letting their bra straps show.  There is a reason undergarments are called “undergarments”.  Exposed lingerie ruins the whole look of a garment.  After switching to a strapless bra when wearing some of my dresses and tops, I discovered that one of my bras had detachable straps in the back that could be lengthened and crossed.  Voila!  Hidden straps and much more comfortable than a strapless bra.

Spanx, Bali, Miraclesuit, Body Wrap and other manufacturers have added shape wear to their lines.  Spanx, an Atlanta company, seems to take the lead.  You can find lightweight or firm body shapers, depending on your needs.  Whether it is smoothing out through the midriffs, thighs or tummy, there is something for you.  The “frog suit” is a lightweight full body and thigh unit that allows you to wear your own bra so you don’t get a “uni-boob” effect.  Look for panties that do not show a panty line with your slacks.

When you are trying on any shapewear, look for something that will be comfortable.  These are not designed to be like the corsets we have all see in movies from the ‘40s or fashions from the turn of the 20th century.  Smelling salts are no longer fashioable!  Be sure you move around, make sure they garment doesn’t roll up or cut in.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking a smaller size will minimize as it will be uncomfortable over time.

Choose a store that has staff trained in fitting lingerie.  You don’t want someone that has just been working in the perfume department helping fit your lingerie.

Pleats – They’re Back

Just when we have become accustomed to men appearing sleek and trim in their body fitting flat front trousers, designers are introducing pleated-front slacks in their fall 2012 collections.

I love the look of flat-front trousers – on the right person.  These slacks appear trim and clean cut on the right body.   However, they don’t work for everyone.   In fact, I don’t think they work for the majority of men.

Flat-front slacks are excellent on the slender man with a flat tummy, trim legs and a smaller derriere.  Not so much the man with a protruding tummy, larger legs or a fuller derriere.  That’s where pleats can make a difference.

I recently worked with a man who had the athletic build of a runner.  He was very trim through the upper part of his body but had muscular thighs and a larger derriere.  He had trouble finding well-fitting trousers.  Pleats would allow more room for this kind of a build while still hanging smoothly from the waist.

Men with large tummies look best wearing slacks with suspenders holding them up at the natural waist.  Some pleating on the trousers is generally preferable.  Without suspenders, the pant slips down under the tummy creating an unattractive fold in the rise.

Pleated trousers look best with cuffs to give a grounded look at the bottom while flat-front pants are generally better without a cuff.  Whether pleats or flat font, men should avoid wallets and car keys being visible in their pockets.   Maybe introducing  men’s purses would be a more practical fashion innovation!  (My husband, for one, would look with disdain on that option but has no problem with placing glasses, keys and other items in MY purse.)

All pleats are not created equal.  I notice most mainstream designers are using just one small pleat.  However, Dior Homme for example, introduced two, deep pleats in their Fall 2012 line.  Most men would be swimming in this look.   I’m sure this is but the beginning of the return to pleats.

How I wish designers would offer options to work with different body builds each season instead of limiting us to “the look” of that season.  If pleats in men’s trousers are  coming back, can women’s be far behind?